Physical Therapy – Is it painful?

By Membership Administrator | In Exercise, Physical Exercise | on June 21, 2014

No pain no gain is an exercise motto that promises greater rewards for the price of hard and even painful work. As a physical therapist, I hear this motto almost on a daily basis and unfortunately it does not always apply to the work that needs to be done during physical therapy treatment.

Pain is a subjective unpleasant sensory experience associated with actual or perceived damage to tissue. Individuals receiving physical therapy are there as a result of damaged tissues. As a result, therapy revolves around healing of those tissues. In physical therapy there is a certain amount of “pain” depending on the stage of recovery. Normal pain sensations could be either associated with stretching tightened tissues or strengthening weakened muscles. In other cases, therapy will focus on decreasing swelling or inflammation of an injured area. During this stage, pain should be avoid due to the risk of increasing swelling or inflammation ultimately slowing down the healing process

Due to the subjectivity of pain varying from person to person it is important to report any sensations of pain to your therapist when receiving treatment. They will be able to distinguish whether the pain you are experiencing is a normal sensation or pain that should be avoided.  As physical therapists, part of our job is to monitor the pain elicited carefully and on an individual basis in regards to the patient’s diagnosis.

Remember no pain no gain does not always apply to physical therapy despite popular opinion!

Source: http://www.orthovirginia.com


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21 Comments to "Physical Therapy – Is it painful?"

  • ubergamer says:

    June 22, 2014 at 10:00 am -

    Everyone needs to understand this. They can’t just be like “No pain, no gain”. We must report to the therapists if we have any sensation of pain during the physical therapies. Until you tell the therapists they can’t tell you if its usual or something unusual. We never know what the pain triggers.

    1. Admin says:

      June 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm -

      Thank you. You are right.

    2. Tipes99 says:

      August 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm -

      You are absolutely right! I’m thinking of getting my degree in physical therapy for seniors. If I was the therapist providing them the treatment I would not want any client to be in pain. So far I have learn that yes like you said no pain no gain and it is true. Physical therapy will never be painless, but if you prevail then the benefit will be life changing. I’ve heard that there are those that came in without hope of ever walking to only needing to sit down a few time a day! Its amazing. So, yes pain is definitely included, but its also a healing process. 🙂

  • Navarro0321 says:

    June 26, 2014 at 5:02 am -

    I reassuringly comply to the notion that pain is a subjective sensory associated with exercise. Hence, the cliche ‘mind over matter’ , which is parallel to the ‘no pain, no gain’ chant, by all means it is a fundamental difference in physical therapy and exercise: operative word being…THERAPY. Physical therapy is a rehabilitative process, and on the other side of the pendulum, exercise is the development of dormant muscles. I feel to many people blur the professions of a physical therapist versus a personal trainer.

  • theshaynee says:

    June 26, 2014 at 10:23 pm -

    People that have experienced PT that I know have mentioned how sore it can make you when it’s all over. But I think that’s really part of the process. It’s just like exercise or any other activity that works parts that aren’t used to being active that much. It’s going to cause soreness and all that fun stuff.

  • junenrufus says:

    July 20, 2014 at 9:58 pm -

    When I first started physical therapy for problems with my hips and knees, I was in so much pain just from walking that whatever pain I experienced during physical therapy wasn’t any worse. Over time though, as I kept going to PT and doing exercises at home, the pain subsided, both the pain I was having during PT and the overall everyday pain I was experiencing. I am so much better now. PT was a real life saver for me.

    When I started PT, I did tell my physical therapist when something hurt me, and he made sure that the exercises I did were gentle enough so that I was never writhing in pain. I think telling your physical therapist when something hurts is key to having a good experience with PT.

  • Diane says:

    July 25, 2015 at 6:19 pm -

    There can definitely be pain associated with physical therapy and rehabilitation, but it is worth it to work with a professional, so you can recover, and get back to your life and as much mobility as is possible, depending upon your injuries. Many people stop as soon as they feel pain, but professionals can help teach the patient to recognize good pain (making progress, stretching, etc.) from bad pain, so that they can recover, without re-injuring themselves.

  • Angel says:

    July 27, 2015 at 8:07 am -

    A fitness guru shared that he gets a massage after every workout to truly relax all parts of the body. That sounds expensive and a little over the top. Well, whatever works for you is of course the best.
    I have a therapist who has been giving me healing and relaxing massages for the past 15 years now. Her name is Julie. She has been able to help me get rid of those terrible migraines in just the first year she started as my therapist. I’m now 51 years old and part of my monthly routine is at least one session with Julie.
    Every now and then, I get minor injuries from my Zumba workouts but these are easily addressed by therapy sessions with Julie.

  • GemmaRowlands says:

    July 29, 2015 at 9:25 am -

    Physical therapy shouldn’t be painful as such, but it might be a little bit uncomfortable, because a lot of the time you will be working on muscles that you have injured, and therefore they hurt already. However, you just have to remember that the exercises that you do are contributing positively to your life, and that things will improve a lot for you. Physical therapy can work wonders for your health and fitness. I know this from my own personal experience, so it is always something that I would highly recommend to other people whenever possible!

  • Lilly Smith says:

    July 29, 2015 at 9:29 pm -

    I am having total knee replacement on both knees with the first one this October. I am NOT looking forward to it for sure, but everyone says that the best part is the PT because you will see improvement each time you go. Although it can be tough they say, if you aren’t committed to the PT, then don’t have the surgery! Makes sense to me! I am hoping all goes well with the first once so the 2nd can be done in January. Wish me luck!!

  • latisha96 says:

    August 9, 2015 at 3:24 pm -

    This summer I’ve recently dislocated my knee. I supposed to have saw a physical therapist; however, with my conflicting schedule I did not. Even though I am better I wonder if my choose was a bad one. A lot of people told me that the PT would not really help. I was in immense so going to visit someone who would even make me feel the slightest of pain would have made me cry.

  • Mama Bulldog says:

    August 14, 2015 at 7:43 pm -

    I did not think about the aspect of physical therapy being able to help reduce swelling. I don’t why, because it only makes sense. With that in mind I need to schedule an appointment for physical therapy. I have so much inflammation in my knees due to arthritis, as well as a herniated disc in my neck. I’m told I’m having muscle spasms in my thoracic area. Yep, calling doctor now about this.

    1. Mama Bulldog says:

      August 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm -

      Let me also add that I suffer from a pinched nerve and stenosis in my low back and spine. I wonder if physical therapy would help with that? Oh, the aches and pains in getting old! My mind is still trying to understand it all since I used to be so fit.

  • Esmael says:

    August 27, 2015 at 11:23 am -

    I used to go to a physical therapist a couple years back following a pretty bad car accident. I didn’t remember it as being very painful. He applied some pressure to the body parts that was feeling pressured. I heard the bones crack but it felt good relieving the pressure from those joints.

  • Diane says:

    September 10, 2015 at 8:28 pm -

    I’ve received physical therapy after some past injuries, and it has always helped. I also received occupational therapy on other areas of my body, due to repetitive injuries. I have print outs of exercises, that I still keep, in case the injuries re-occur. I try to stay limber via stretching and walking, so I won’t need to go back for more therapy, but if I have to, I will, because I know that it can be helpful.

  • Celerian says:

    October 4, 2015 at 8:50 pm -

    Even if it is painful you need to suffer through it! Great things are never achieved without pain and effort!

    1. Heda says:

      November 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm -

      I agree with you totally. But I think you cannot apply this to seniors and physical therapy. Of course you need to suffer a little etc. but I think what the author of the article wanted to say is that seniors often want to look brave and they think that if they don’t tell the therapist about the pain they are having they will look stronger. But the thing is, if they don’t tell them about the pain, the doctor cannot really work on their health problem, because they don’t know about all of the symptoms!

  • Nemesysbr says:

    October 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm -

    My mom needed some physical therapy for quite a while because of her popped knee. The results were surprisingly good. Once she healed completely it was like she never got injured at all. I’m really glad she can finally play tennis again.

  • Heda says:

    November 17, 2015 at 8:24 pm -

    I have some knee issues and I am attending a physical therapist right now! Thinking of the motto “no pain, no gain” is exactly what I was doing! I didn’t want my therapist to think I cannot stand even a little pain. But then I realized I really need to tell her about all of my physical feelings since it will help her to diagnose my problem. And this article reassured me I should do it, so thank you!

  • Lilly Smith says:

    November 17, 2015 at 8:37 pm -

    Ok, I posted a few months ago that I was having total knee replacement…..well, I DID IT! I started my physical therapy just 4 days after surgery. I have to say that in the beginning it wasn’t too bad…..I thought “gee, I can do this”…..well, let me tell you…..after about 2 weeks in it became very very difficult. I am not afraid to tell ANYONE when I am hurting and of course I do realize that it is necessary to obtain the best results for this type of replacement. I am now 5 weeks into my physical therapy and it is still quite difficult on days when they work me hard. I have a great group that I work with and my one on one therapist is wonderful. I tell her just what I’m feeling while there and when I’m at home doing some of the things on my own. I am hoping that what everyone says about it getting better will happen soon. After a while the pain of this is overwhelming to me. I am hanging in there though and doing what I’m told and they say I am right on point where I should be. Don’t give up is the key.

  • krissttinaisobe says:

    December 19, 2015 at 4:29 am -

    For the past 3 years my Mom underwent surgery that needed physical therapists. They were kind and very helpful. Don’t ever not go to a physical therapist for they are so helpful and they can answer all your questions too. My Mom is not feeling afraid of exercising now because of her physical therapists.

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